Money & Me: Dubai marketing agency executive busy reining in urge to splurge

Tehzeeb Ahmed is the managing partner of Buzzy Bee Communications, a Dubai-based agency catering to start-ups and small businesses she set up with her brother in 2012. The Bangladeshi, 39, who has also worked in Boston and Brussels, has lived in Dubai most of her life.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My parents brought us up to believe that money was never the be all and end all of happiness. We should instead strive for job satisfaction, health, a happy family and money would come if we stopped worrying about it. I grew up learning that we should be happy with whatever we had and never compare ourselves to others and hence I never made money my key success driver. That is still the case today.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

It was an entry-level position in an advertising agency in the US. I made US$18,000 annually before taxes. I brought home about Dh3,000 monthly from that and I was paid weekly, which meant I had generally used up every penny by the end of the month.

Are you a spender or saver?

A spender learning to become a saver. I used to be a reckless spender, living for the moment. My credit cards would be maxed out and I had a “pay now, worry later” attitude. It was all fine when I had a stable salaried income. Things change when you become self-employed and constantly looking for ways to save money. That’s when you realise [credit card] interest rates are ridiculous and the importance of having money you can use in times of need.

What is your most cherished purchase?

My beautiful Volkswagen mint green Beetle purchased in 2001 through a car loan that I paid off in 2004. It was my dream car and I knew I wanted it before I could even drive. I sold it with much sorrow in 2007, when I moved to Brussels.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could you not pay the bills?

Yes, generally the summer months when business is very slow but credit card bills, overheads and salaries still need to be paid.

Where do you save your money?

In a savings account and mutual funds.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

Credit cards because of the points they offer. However, in the last year I’m aggressively trying to reduce my card debts so I’m pay as much as I can by debit card or in cash. Wanting to pay off my credit cards came from realising that it’s a bit of a black hole and that your monthly payments can end up becoming a person’s salary. At one point I was paying nearly Dh9,000 a month on my card as a minimum payment. You lose track of the reality of a situation with a credit card.

What has been your best investment?

A mutual fund critical illness policy. In my 20s I never thought about investing in my future or my health. As I approach my 40s and due to critical illness in my family history, I have invested in this to protect both my family and myself.

What do you most regret spending money on?

I don’t really as my larger expenses have always been experiences, courses or items that I have made the most of and enjoyed. I occasionally purchase cheap services on Groupon etc and then forget about them and regret buying them.

Do you have a plan for the future?

Not really. For now I would like to be completely debt-free by next year and comfortable with my business earnings.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

Keep aside Dh500,000 in a savings account for my family; buy a new car (because I really need one of my own as I’m driving a family car at the moment); pay off my credit card debts and invest about Dh150,000 in the infrastructure of my business.

What would you raid your savings account for?

Capital equity for the business if required and my big 40th birthday bash next year.

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